Interviewee: General Sam Phillips

Interviewer: Martin Collins

Date: January 16, 1989

Place: At General Phillips' home, Palos Verdes Estates, California


MR. COLLINS: Last time, we concluded our discussion with an examination of your role as project manager on the B-52, and in reviewing our discussion, there were a couple of questions I wanted to ask. One, I was unclear on the significance of a consideration of what configuration to use for the B-52 for the cockpit, and you referred to the two choices as tandem and side by side, and I just wanted you to describe what the differences are and what significance that had in the tactical sense, why was it important to Curtis LeMay?

GENERAL PHILLIPS: Tandem configuration defines a cockpit arrangement in which the pilot and the co-pilot sit one behind the other. In other words, the co-pilot is sitting directly behind the pilot. A side-by-side configuration has the pilot in the left seat and on his right is the co-pilot. And in the same general cabin might be a navigator or other crew member. The significance of that arrangement from the standpoint of a long-range bomber as seen by General Curtis LeMay was the importance of crew communication and crew coordination between a pilot and co-pilot, and possibly a third or even a fourth crew member in the same general cabin, ability to communicate together, to work together, to carry out their mission more effectively by being side by side as opposed to one behind the other and separated usually by rather large pieces of structure and instrument panels, making interpersonal communications almost impossible. Of course, in a tandem arrangement it's quite possible to communicate by intercommunication, intercom system, but in terms of personally relating to each other, it's essentially impossible in a tandem cockpit. That generally defines the configuration. I could pursue it a little further if you'd like.

COLLINS: Obviously in the side-by-side arrangement one would require a wider cockpit and that would affect the drag and aerodynamic qualities of the plane.

PHILLIPS: That's true. See, the predecessor of the B-52 was the B-47. The B-47 was a tandem cockpit airplane, had six engines, was built to be an intercontinental bomber, but of course it required air refueling to make the very long ranges. It was a smaller airplane than the B-52 but I think quite an effective one. It was a tandem cockpit, and so by the time the B-52 came along, SAC had considerable experience with the B-47 tandem cockpit arrangement, and could compare that in their experience with the long experience of side by side airplanes that had come up from World War II and through the B-36, which was of course a side by side airplane, with other crew members actually in the same cabin as the pilot, co-pilot cockpit. The B-52 in its original engineering or experimental configuration, the X model and the Y model were I think the first two flight vehicles, were built as tandem cockpit airplanes. So the fuselage in the forward area where the cockpit is was smaller than would be required in width to accommodate a side by side cockpit. So the original flight test data and wind tunnel data as well had been accumulated based on the smaller forward fuselage cross-section area, the tandem arrangement.

    From an engineering and technical standpoint, when the question arose seriously about converting to a side by side cockpit arrangement, it meant changing the cross-section area of the fuselage by widening it in that forward area, and many other changes that would be involved in changing the configuration which would, according to the analyses and studies as I remember them, have increased the drag of the airplane, through having a wider or larger fuselage cross-sectional area, as I recall it--I don't remember whether it increased the weight of the airplane or not. I just don't recall. But likely the original studies indicated there would be a weight increase, all of which added up to some degradation in range performance. Adding drag and weight adversely affects range. And so the trade-off, in the simplest terms, was one of crew efficiency, as viewed from the Strategic Air Command standpoint, with the side by side cockpit, versus performance generally in terms of range.

    As I think back on it now, with, what 40 some years later, as I've said before, it was clearly correct from an operational standpoint that the airplane be built as a side by side airplane. And whatever performance degradations were attributed to that change in the initial changes, 40 or so years ago, surely were very rapidly offset by combinations of design refinements and performance improvements in a variety of areas. So in the end, I'm sure in the big picture the performance disadvantages disappeared rather quickly.

COLLINS: I wanted also to ask an additional question about Boeing's role in the B-52 program. To kind of paraphrase our discussion, I guess it was characterized as a modified prime contractor role, in which they had some of the usual functions of a prime contractor, but also responsibilities for systems integration. Was that really different than other previous aircraft procurements?

PHILLIPS: Not really. The typical arrangement to contract for airplane development, development leading into production, in the late forties, fifties, and perhaps even beyond, was to select what was called a prime contractor for the airplane or the weapons system, but to prescribe in the prime contract what major subsystems would be provided as government-furnished equipment-- for example, engines, fire control systems, bombing systems. So it was typical in those years to call the contract with the airframe or--with the airframe contractor the prime contract, and to include in that contract not only those subsystems that would be delivered as government-furnished, but also the responsibilities of the airframe contractor to integrate the total system. In other words, to integrate into the airframe design the engines, fire control, bombing and whatever other systems were prescribed as government-furnished. That was a typical arrangement in those years, and I think actually quite effective. What I've described here would apply typically to a bomber airplane, a very large bomber airplane. I also was involved with some of the fighter aircraft developments and production. And the arrangements were similar there with the airframe contractor. Typically the airframe contractors for fighters were different contractors than for bombers. The leading bomber contractors back in that period were Boeing, Convair, they were the biggies in that period. I guess still in the running were Martin. I don't recall that Lockheed was in the running as a bomber contractor in that period. North American still was. But typically the leading fighter airplane contractors were North American--the Air Force had established some relations with McDonnell, which had in prior years typically been a Navy contractor--and Douglas was competing in both bombers and fighters. Lockheed was big in the fighter business. But the arrangements in fighter procurements, developments and procurements typically were essentially the same as bombers. Contracting with an airplane contractor, specifying government-furnished engines, government-furnished fire control systems for the fighters. The big fire control system contractors for fighters in those years, the biggest was Hughes. And of course there's quite a story that goes with the changes in Hughes Company in the fifties and how that affected the Hughes relationships with the government and the fighter aircraft industry.

COLLINS: Is that something that you have personal knowledge or experience of?

PHILLIPS: Yes, I saw that generally from my position in the Armament Laboratory, which was in the period of '51 or '51', '52 up to about '54. That was a period of considerable problem and change with Hughes. I guess rather than try to develop any more the list of contractors, really the pattern of procurement or contracting between the government, the Air Force and industry, was what I was trying to indicate.

COLLINS: So your point is that the procurement of aircraft fighters and aircraft bombers was essentially the same pattern.


COLLINS: In the case of the B-52, was the issue or problem of systems integration of greater complexity than for previous aircraft? Was that kind of skill required in greater abundance, something that had a greater capacity for systems integration, for the B-52?

PHILLIPS: Yes, I think the job of total system engineering, total system integration for the B-52 was a bigger job than for previous systems. The job was contracted with Boeing, and was done by Boeing. The total system--we didn't typically use the words system engineering so much in those days as related to a major weapons system. Well, system integration, the job of integrating that total system, integrating the air frame engine and the air frame fire control, air frame bombing and the whole total system, was contracted with Boeing, and was done very effectively by Boeing. Boeing had all of the know-how and skills required to do it and did it very well. The contractual arrangements essentially were to give Boeing, in the case of the B-52, the job of integrating the total system. Boeing's ability to direct in a contractual sense, say, the engine contractor, Pratt and Whitney, really didn't exist. In other words, they didn't have contractual direction authority. There was considerable interaction and coordination between the two contractors at the technical level, the engineering level. Any change that would be required in the engine in order that it could be more efficiently or effectively accommodated in the airplane had to be directed by the Air Force on the Air Force's contract with Pratt and Whitney, and whenever that was required, typically Boeing would submit an engineering change proposal to the Air Force, which, if it was agreed and approved and required action by Pratt and Whitney, would be directed as a contract change on Pratt and Whitney by the Air Force.

COLLINS: Let's take that as a hypothetical instance of Boeing asking for an engineering change. What would be a typical pattern of how this might evolve? Would there first be discussions between Boeing technical people and Pratt and Whitney technical people, a change perceived to be needed, then it would be brought to the Air Force, then the Air Force would go to Pratt and Whitney?

PHILLIPS: Yes. As I said, there was very direct coordination and interchange between Boeing engineering departments and Pratt and Whitney engineering, so that the problems of incorporating a jet engine into an airplane involve coordination of a lot of details having to do with the way in which air is brought into the engine, which is largely an airframe matter, a wide variety of interface relations involving pipes and ducts and wires, many of which are just routine interfaces to be identified and then accommodated in the design, but not infrequently the location of a pipe or the capacity of a particular pipe would be important in the relations with the airplane. And a change either in the engine or in the airplane would improve the efficiency of the combination. Those kinds of matters were continually being worked at the engineering detail level by engineers of the two companies working together or exchanging drawings and data. And when a change in either's configuration, either the air frame or the engine, would improve the results of the whole, that matter would be--if it required, for example, in this example, a change in the engine, would be referred to the Air Force as an engineering change proposal or engineering change request, which if approved would be then directed contractually on Pratt and Whitney. It sounds cumbersome, and perhaps it was, but at least in that program in those years, that loop worked fairly fast. In other words, if the Boeing and Pratt and Whitney engineers agreed that a change in the engine was necessary, assuming it was not a monstrous kind of fundamental change that would have tremendous cost reverberations, assuming it was not that kind, that typically could be approved and directed verbally and followed up immediately with a contract change notice to the engine contractor.

COLLINS: Right. Was this arrangement something that grew out of historical relationships that had been put in place for other reasons, or was it a conscious decision on the part of the Air Force, that we want to structure this procurement in this way to have these different contractors directly responsible to us but have Boeing serve as a prime contractor with responsibility for systems integration and working through us in this fashion?

PHILLIPS: It was more one of historical precedent and evolution of the system, evolution of the scheme of how things were done, based largely on historical precedent. The way the Air Force was organized, in those years, think of it now as the forties, fifties, was within the engineering division of the Air Materiel Command, were project groups concerned with airplanes, B-52, B-47, P-80 and up to the 100 series of fighters and so on, and in addition to the aircraft groups, those concerned with the airplanes and final systems, were laboratories. There was a Power Plant Laboratory which was charged with the responsibility for developing engines and engine technology, Armament Laboratory, Aircraft Laboratory which had to do with research and development on airfoils and airframes and aerodynamic features and so on. Later there was an Avionics Laboratory and so on.

    From my memory, the responsibility for developing say the J-57 engine, which was the engine originally used in the B-52, was contracted by the Armament Laboratory with Pratt and Whitney, and as the engine reached a state of maturity or was being bought in quantities, the Armament Laboratory was still very much involved in the technical direction. I've kind of forgotten the organizational relationships. I think probably in the procurement-production directorate of the Air Materiel Command, there was a group charged with the responsibility for buying engines who were the procurement people with whom the Armament Laboratory engineering people worked. And similarly in the buying of the total system, the airplane, the B-52 in this case, the procurement-production directorate of the Air Materiel Command had the contract with Boeing, and the engineering people in the engineering division of the Air Materiel Command worked with the procurement-production people in the technical interactions and direction of the Boeing contract for the Air Force.

    So the organizational relationships were complex, at least as I see them or saw them then, with technical laboratories of the engineering division relating with government-furnished procurement organizations and procurement and production for engines, for fire control and so on, and the engineering relations with a different group of procurement-production people in the contracting for the airplanes. So although in an overall sense, it might look simple, the one command of the Air Force in those years, the Air Materiel Command, had the total responsibility for all things materiel and logistics and procurement-production, the way it worked I think was somewhat complex.

    Now, we talked last time about how the Air Force organization evolved to separate out the engineering division to become the Air Research and Development Command. A part of that organizational change, I think brought about a significant step in organizational effectiveness, whether it was simplification or not is another matter, in that the technical people and the procurement-production people sat together in one joint program office to direct the total program. And as we discussed last time, I was the ARDC program manager for the B-52, and Ed O'Connor was the AMC Procurement-Production head, so the two of us headed what was called a JPO, a Joint Project Office. There was an Air Force regulation written in the early fifties as the ARDC was coming into being to define that relationship, and the point at which responsibilities changed from the ARDC being prime, because of the engineering sense, or the time--up to a certain point in the development of the airplane, ARDC was prime or the lead command, and as the airplane was then committed to production the prime responsibility shifted over to AMC.

COLLINS: What was the nature of your working relationship with your counterpart in each of those instances when the craft was in the development phase and then when it was in the production phase? How did you share responsibility for this program? What was the range of each of your authorities and responsibilities?

PHILLIPS: I'm hesitating trying to put it into the right words. In a legalistic sense, the power of ultimate decision on any matter having to do with a particular contract or particular system was in the Air Research and Development Command up to a certain point, with AMC supporting, and after that transition point, the beginning of production essentially, the power of ultimate decision was in the other command.

COLLINS: What would it mean to play a supporting role here? What would be an instance in which either AMC would be supportive to you as the lead, or you'd be supportive to AMC once production began?

PHILLIPS: The way things actually worked, I can't remember an incident where it came down to being a "who's in charge?" kind of issue. At least in the relations between me and Ed O'Connor, I can't recall that there was any difference between how we worked before and after the transition of ultimate authority, and that was because we had established ourselves as a Joint Program Office with the day to day working relations and the procedures working in a way that the issues and decisions required were typically made in a fully coordinated fashion. As I say, I can't remember--I'm trying to think of something that might give you an example.

COLLINS: Not so much seeking where there were differences between you and Ed O'Connor, but just to get a sense of how the relationship worked. An example perhaps would be, how was the relationship with the contractor handled, say, following--would your range of contacts be primarily with a certain group of Boeing people, the technical staff, and would Ed's be with a slightly different group, a contract management group?

PHILLIPS: Well, the simple answer is, no, we didn't, but as I think about it in a more detailed sense, to some extent the answer is yes. Regardless of the transition of responsibility between the two commands, in that period of the Air Force's organization, the contracting officer was always a person in the Air Materiel Command procurement-production directorate. And the contracting officer always had the ultimate power of yes or no on a contract action. The senior contracting officer always was the Air Materiel Command program manager, in this case Ed O'Connor. That's an important element of the intercommand relationship which played a big role in the later step that created the Air Force Systems Command.

    Let me just mention, that the power of the contract--power I guess is the right word, I suppose the authority and responsibility is the more genteel description, of thecontracting officer, and his relation then with the program director, in the sense that ARDC might be in a particular period the ultimate responsible organization, was a not infrequent point of contention. And it really came to a head with me in the Minuteman program, where in a much more dramatically clear sense, as the ARDC program director, I was in charge of the Minuteman program. This being the period before the establishment of the Systems Command.

    I remember more than one instance where I was in direct confrontation with the contracting officer over a requirement for a contract change, to direct the contractor contractually to do something, and there came a point in that program where the contracting officer refused to issue a contract change or a contract direction that I told him to issue. I didn't want to get off into this in too great detail, because that relates to Minuteman, but it still applies back to the earlier period, so let me just finish describing it.

    In the Minuteman case, an Air Force colonel was the AMC program manager, my counterpart, Jim Foster, a fine and very capable person under whom a civilian was the contracting officer. Here too, in the same sense that I described earlier, Foster was the ultimate contracting officer, but his ACO, I guess they were called, Administrative Contracting Officer was a civilian, and it was this ACO who was refusing my direction to issue a contract change.

COLLINS: Is there any significance to you that he was a civilian?

PHILLIPS: No. He could just as well have been--I was going to say, he could just as well have been a military officer because there were Administrative Contracting Officers who were military. In that case, you get another subtlety, which is the military command relationship, which is not quite as applicable as it is in a fighting command, if you will, "Do as I order." We're getting into this in some depth but it's important, I guess.

COLLINS: I think it is.

PHILLIPS: A contracting officer has responsibilities to conduct his work in accordance with the law as well as the regulations, and he has the power, if you want to call it that, to refuse an order if he judges it to be illegal, if he's being told to do something that is illegal or against regulations, or that would require money to be spent that doesn't exist and that sort of thing. So a contracting officer has, and I think always has and correctly so, some authority in the limit to refuse direction, in which case there always have been procedures that are set up to try to resolve the issue. Those kinds of cases don't come up often, at least they didn't in my experience, and frankly, I've forgotten the details of the case that I was describing earlier, when an ACO was refusing to issue a direction. To me it was an absolutely clear-cut case of something that had to be done, that was entirely proper, entirely legal, and it was just a--I can't think of the right word--an arbitrary illogically based refusal to act that I was encountering.

    In any case, the point I wanted to make though is that I immediately went to Tom Gerrity, who was the major general at that point that was my boss. This then I guess has to be after--must have been after we'd made or at least started the transition to become the Systems Command. In any case, I went to Tom Gerrity, who had come up himself through the Air Materielle Command procurement-production chain over a lot of years, and told him I wanted the contracting officers warned, if I was going to run that program, I had to have the power of a contracting officer to issue and require contractual direction. That, I remember, kind of shocked him a bit, because it was very much against precedent to issue contracting officers' warrants to anyone other than people who had come up through the contracting officers' chain. It took a little bit of time, but I got a contracting officers' warrant, and I hung it behind my desk, and I never had another confrontation with an ACO after that! Or I never had another refusal, let's put it that way.


COLLINS: Had this distinction between someone supervising the technical elements and someone overseeing the contractual and financial aspects, had that evolved as something of an explicit double check on the progress of a program or just a feeling that these are skills that simply don't come together in one individual?

PHILLIPS: I don't really understand the question.

COLLINS: Up to the point at which you managed to get a contracting officers' warrant in the Minuteman program, these functions were divided. Were the functions divided out of a sense of providing a check on the development of the program, a kind of organizational safeguard, checks and balance arrangement, or was it just a question of precedent in which people with different skills had come up to assume different kinds of responsibilities?

PHILLIPS: I think it was more a matter of evolving precedent. But there really is more to it than that. Then and now, I think it's necessary that the person responsible for contracting, for executing the contract on behalf of the government, had the responsibility and the authority that goes with it to insure that that contracting is done in accordance with the law and applicable rules. So it becomes then a matter, I think, of where that responsibility and authority is placed in an organizational level. In the case of how I saw my responsibility, thinking now about the Minuteman program, there was never any doubt in my mind that I was fully responsible for that program, and was accountable for whether it got done or not and had the authority within proper constraints to carry it out. And I always regarded the contracting officer as one of my several subordinates who was responsible for a particular function, and that I never had any doubt in my own mind about the fact that any direction I gave had to be a lawful direction.

    It was not, the way I thought about it, necessary to have a subordinate who had the ultimate power to overrule my direction, but rather that contracting officer subordinate had the same responsibility as anyone else who worked for me to inform me clearly and forcefully when necessary that actions were in the best interest or improper or even illegal, much as my own view always of the role of a lawyer in my organization. His responsibility was to clearly inform me of what's right and wrong, and if necessary to be very clear about some action that might be improper or bordering on being improper. I think that's an organizational check and balance subtlety that's important in large organizations, so just to pursue it one step further, in a corporate structure, in industry, a comptroller has certain responsibilities for the protection of the assets of the corporation, and at least in some corporations where that's carried out, if a comptroller is required to do something in accounting or in the financial world that is improper in his judgment, and after informing his boss or manager, that it is improper, if that practice persists, he is obliged in some corporations to go to a higher authority to blow the whistle, if you want to use that term. Some corporations work that way, and I think probably good corporations all work that way.

    So you get this organizational subtlety of say comptrollers, lawyers, attorneys, perhaps even others who at least in their judgment of failing to convince their immediate boss that he's wrong, have an assigned responsibility to jump him and to go to a higher level to blow the whistle. Well, what I've described here is my own attitude toward all of this, that I, as the program director, was responsible for conducting the program in a proper and legal way, for listening to the advice and counsel of my contracting officer, as well as others who worked for me, but always having the ultimate responsibility for proper action. So it was in that context that I insisted on having a contracting officers' warrant, and thereby, I suppose, in a legal sense, clearly being then identified as the person responsible for insuring that contracting was done in a proper and legal way.

COLLINS: So was the organizational arrangement when Minuteman started called a Joint Project Office?

PHILLIPS: Yes. Yes, because the program was started at a time when the Air Force organization still had the Air Materiel Command and the Air Research and Development Command.

COLLINS: Let's hop back to the B-52 experience for a few minutes. You laid out a very interesting organizational picture of how the Air Force was put together and roughly how it worked. To go back to the case when a change was required of some moment in the contract, how would you go about it if a contractor came to you and said, some change is required and it's going to affect another contractor? How would you go about assessing the validity of that claim?

PHILLIPS: Well, in that period, the formal process involved an ECP, an Engineering Change Proposal from a contractor. Let's just pick an example. Boeing submits an ECP requesting change in the location of a hot air port on the J-57 engine. They want a specific change in the location. So they submit an ECP, which was a prescribed form in which what's to be done and why and justification and effects on other systems and costs and whatever, all of that is submitted as part of this ECP package. That would arrive in my office. My office would in that case refer it to the Power Plant Laboratory, which is responsible for the engine, and assuming that I and/or the small number of people who worked for me directly there in the program office had been involved in this in discussions with Boeing engineering or even with Pratt and Whitney or both--if I or one of my people already knew that it was required, made all kinds of sense from every standpoint, we would typically write that in a memorandum to the Power Plant Laboratory, requesting that they take the action. And in that particular case, the people in the Power Plant Lab responsible for the engine, if they had no reason to not do it, (if there was something that hadn't been considered), then they would issue a contract change on Pratt and Whitney and certain paper feedback to my program office and Boeing that would say what was done.

COLLINS: In other words, you would use the technical laboratories in this process.

PHILLIPS: Yes. When there was a subsystem involved like the engine.

COLLINS: Would then the administrative contract officer have to be involved in some way in this process?

PHILLIPS: Yes, that one might or might not. Let's assume it did require a change on the Boeing contract. It probably would because of some spec or something that had to be changed at least in the record. So after the change was directed on Pratt and Whitney through their contracting channels, it would come back through our administrative contracting officer who would issue a change notice against the Boeing contract to incorporate EPC so and so. It might only be just a record change, but whatever it was, so yes, it would feed back through and be a contractual change.

COLLINS: Okay. How does this process relate to what you were saying about the Minuteman, where you had this instance in which there was a difference of opinion?

PHILLIPS: Well, except for the way in which the Air Force organization was arranged, it would be the same. In other words, Boeing on Minuteman wanted a change in a Thiokol engine. So they would submit an ECP. Remember here on the Minuteman, Boeing, one of their contractual responsibilities was the physical integration of the missile, which gave them the job of the interstage skirts and many other things. So it was not uncommon that they would require a change, say, in the first stage engine, which was being contracted directly by the Air Force with Thiokol. So they would submit an Engineering Change Proposal to my office. One of the things that we introduced in the ballistic missile program--and really largely I think had its origins in the Minuteman program--was a formal configuration control, configuration management approach which included a Change Control Board. So I had a Change Control Board established at my level in the program office, and any change, Engineering Change Proposal or engineering change request that came into my office went to that Change Board.

COLLINS: Here you're referring essentially to a committee.

PHILLIPS: Yes. And that Change Board included engineering representation from each of the major components of the system. As I recall, we had seven what we called associate contracts, and within my organization, a knowledgeable technical representative from each of those areas was on that Change Board, as well as the contracting officer. And in most cases, a change request that came from Boeing for example to change the first stage engine could be adequately handled by the Change Board in one session. There was enough known about it so a decision, yes or no, and a contractual change could be issued. A contractual change in this case to Thiokol and also to Boeing.

COLLINS: In the early part of the Minuteman program, there was still this kind of new process in which you, not you as a manager to a subordinate but as someone who in a sense had some independence from the contracting officer, also to pass on it as well as you.


COLLINS: Before we get into Minuteman in detail, on the B-52, I want a little clearer picture of what your life was like as program manager there. Typically, what was your day structured like? What kinds of people would you come in contact with? What were your contacts with industry?

PHILLIPS: Well, my office was at Wright Field, Building 15, and the office, the Joint Project Office--I don't remember now how many people were assigned directly in that office but it was not a very large number, maybe 20. Maybe ten, as many as ten ARDC people worked directly for me. There might have been more than ten. It might be more like twenty or so working for Ed O'Connor in the AMC side.

COLLINS: Did you guys actually sit together in the same office?

PHILLIPS: Yes, we had one office. I still remember, the arrangement was a fairly large office in which both of us had our desks in the same room. And the people who worked for O'Connor were the contracting specialists, which involves a fair amount of administrative and clerking as well as some technical competence. Tied in with them were what you should think of as some planners that were largely in the procurement-production planning kind of business. My command structure, the people that I reported to, included--my program office was a part of the Bomber Division, and my memory is that Colonel Bill Maxwell was head of the Bomber Division and was my immediate boss.

    Other projects that were active still at that time in various stages were the B-47, B-36 and so on, but I had the B-52 under Bill Maxwell. His boss was Al Boyd, a major general who was the commander of what in that ARDC organization was called WADC, the Writer Development Center. Ed O'Connor's structure was not too different. He reported to a procurement-production aircraft division head who, if my memory is right, was a man named Jay Wethy who in turn reported to the director of procurement and production for the Air Materiel Command, who was a major general, and at least at one point in that structure, Horace Shepherd was that person. Horace Shepherd, you may know, later was CEO of TRW. That procurement production head, a major general, reported in turn to the commander of the Air Materiel Command, I guess in those years probably a three, I've forgotten now whether he was three or four stars, but it was people like Chidlaw and Rollings.

    In the new ARDC side, I mentioned Al Boyd, who was WADC commander. He reported to the commander ARDC who in those early years, when I was involved in the B-52, was Tom Power. Later on in time Ben Schriever was the commander for quite a long period of time, including the transition into the Systems Command. Some of my time was spent in my own command chain, keeping Bill Maxwell and on occasion Al Boyd and on occasion Tom Power informed. So I was probably on something like a--at least every couple of months, I would give a briefing up the chain to include going to--the original site of ARDC headquarters was in Baltimore, in the Sun Building, and I can remember every couple of months or so going in to brief Tom Power on the B-52 program. I can remember perhaps once a year or so going in to brief--maybe it was more like twice a year--to brief people in the Pentagon.

    I remember General White when he was the Chief of Staff, giving at least two briefings to him, and typically I would be accompanied to brief General White by Al Boyd, I can remember, because Al Boyd was one of the test pilots of the year. So whenever we'd go to Washington it was in a T-33, so I remember flying with Al Boyd to Washington, landing at Bolling AFB, incidentally, to give a briefing over in the Pentagon. So one of the sets of activities and responsibilities was keeping that command channel informed, and I'm sure there were some decisions that were required and made in that process, but I don't recall. Those kinds of meetings typically were not decision meetings. They were meetings that might well lead to decisions, but they were to inform on status and progress and problems.

COLLINS: Resuming after a brief pause.

PHILLIPS: Resuming talking about how I spent my time on the B-52. Another major element of my responsibility had to do with planning the development program, which included quite importantly the flight testing, which reminds me that my deputy was a Colonel Sam Parsons, who had grown up as a flight test pilot, and had spent time at Edwards as a flight test pilot, and so his prime job was planning for the conduct of the flight test program. And then as we got into it, the monitoring of the flight test activity and results and the feedback that inevitably comes from flight testing in the way of further development and engineering changes and so on. I've forgotten just how many airplanes we had in our flight test program, but there were several, starting with the X and Y models and then going on up into the production prototypes and the actual initial first ones off the line, as production articles, at one end of the flight test program. Another major element was the attention to detail concerning the requirements for evolving development. In other words, the development process itself is an evolutionary process, and the decisions on changes that are part of that evolving process. Those decisions, as we talked earlier, ultimately have to do with coordination with the various laboratories that had responsibilities in various fields, and where the bulk of the Air Force's technical talent actually resided was in those laboratories, and ultimately decision and direction on the appropriate contractors involving in the end engineering changes as part of the evolving development.

COLLINS: In the case of Minuteman, you mentioned that you used one organizational form to keep on top of that process, the Change Control Board.


COLLINS: Was there any formal organizational element like that in the B-52 program?


COLLINS: What was your approach then to monitoring this ongoing activity?

PHILLIPS: It was a relatively formalized process of the flow of paper, typically starting with an Engineering Change Request originating somewhere, usually with the contractor, but it could also originate with the flight test organization, or it could originate even in my office if that's where a particular problem got identified that required an engineering change to solve. And the flow of paper was a prescribed flow, and the final action was a sign-off. If it were an engineering change typically it would require either mine or, depending on my delegation, say Sam Parsons as deputy, to sign off, and the ultimate implementation then was a contract change. So one of our management tools became the flow of this Engineering Change Request paper, and ultimately you know you can visualize a flow of Engineering Change Requests that result in an Engineering Change Proposal that's in various stages, including its final approval and direction, approved, in other words, and ultimately a CCN or a Contract Change Notice, so that that whole flow, keeping track of that was one of the management tools.

COLLINS: I don't know the extent of the engineering changes that were a part of the development of the B-52, but I assume they were reasonably extensive.

PHILLIPS: They were.

COLLINS: Making sure that one change properly fits into other changes, how were you keeping control of the total configuration of the system?

PHILLIPS: Well, the formal way that was done, at least from a final integrated weapons system standpoint, would have been in Boeing. In other words, the final repository of the records of the configuration clearly were in Boeing. And you're right, that many changes reverberate through the system, and cause effects in one or more other areas of the system. The ECP form itself required consideration of those kinds of intersystem effects, and, at least from the government's side, would trigger the involvement of people in one or more laboratories to weigh the effects of a change. And the process intended to work in a way that when a final decision was made, let's say by me, on approving or not approving a change, that all those interactions had been considered and were known and made a matter of record. Boeing obviously played a key role in all those interaction areas as well, being the integrating contractor responsible. Another major area of my activity was working with the contractors, but it was primarily with Boeing. But I also spent quite a bit of time, I remember, working with ARMA, who was the contractor responsible for the fire control system on the B-52, which was a very sophisticated radar directed tail turret, because that was a significant new development and carried a lot of problems. And I can remember having to referee more than one interchange, to be gentle about it, between Boeing and ARMA over that tail turret fire control system.

COLLINS: Typically in doing this kind of work, were you working with your counterpart on the Boeing side, the program manager on their side and the program manager on ARMA's side, is that typically the level at which you would interact?

PHILLIPS: Yes, and that reminds me, something that's both important and interesting. The program manager for Boeing on the B-52 was a fine old gentleman named Art Carlson. I don't remember now his title in the Boeing Company. It may or may not have been program manager on the B-52. It might well have been chief engineer or some such title. But Art Carlson was Boeing's program manager, and he was an old timer, he'd been through a lot of airplanes, to include I'm sure going back to the B-17 and even its predecessors, and I learned a lot from Art. I spent a lot of time with him. But in later years, T. A. Wilson told me once --because he had the same high regard for Art Carlson that I did --that Art always considered one of his jobs was to train those young Air Force officers who were the program managers for the Air Force on whatever system he was responsible for. He didn't, I guess, make that a particularly explicit part of his statement of responsibilities, but he clearly did that, and as I said, I learned a lot from Art Carlson. Thinking about it, years later, I think the really good industrial program managers of the caliber and vintage of people like Art Carlson always did consider one of their prime responsibilities, to develop people, both in their own organization, people like T. Wilson who related to Art Carlson in somewhat the same way, but also in the customer organization, in this case the Air Force.

COLLINS: Which raises a question we haven't touched on till this point. Your coming into the B-52 program as a program manager was a different order of responsibility for you, and I wonder how the Air Force prepared you for taking on this new responsibility? Was it kind of a sink or swim sort of arrangement, or was there some explicit training and education element that went into helping you with your responsibilities?

PHILLIPS: Well, it was, I guess within limits you could regard it as a sink or swim kind of assignment. There was not, in any defined way, a path of preparation for that assignment. But my previous assignment, the job I'd had immediately prior to that, was as the director of operations at the Armament Laboratory, and in that role I had been working overseeing the responsibilities of the Armament Laboratory in a wide range of programs. It had to do with fighter fire control and bomber fire control and bombing systems and munitions and guns and the whole range of things. So I had considerable knowledge of the B-52 from that perspective. I think in that period, the people who were selected to head the project offices for the airplanes were drawn typically from positions that had either come up through one of the key labs, as I had, or through the program organizations, the aircraft projects. There wasn't then any prescribed path of development or training, which incidentally in later years I saw as a deficiency, and played some role in the establishment of the Systems Program Officer School which has over the years evolved into being the Defense Systems Acquisition College, I guess now, that's at Fort Belvoir.

COLLINS: Let's look then at--

PHILLIPS: Martin, before you change off to another subject, I want to mention another major category of my responsibilities, which had to do with the formal process of monitoring and directing the evolution of development and production. The Air Force had formally established a set of milestone reviews with the contractor. I don't remember exactly what they all were at that period, but early on there was a mockup review, and some time later, later being at a point preceding by some time the delivery of a particular airplane or prototype or model in the delivery series, and that was called in that period a CTCI, Contract Technical Compliance Inspection. So there were those prescribed formal reviews that were to be conducted with the contractor, and take the CTCI, that would be structured in a way that there was a board and during the period that ARDC was responsible, I was the chairman of the board, and after the responsibility changed over to AMC, Ed O'Connor would be the chairman, and that board would have members from SAC, I remember the SAC requirements chief in that period, Don Hellman, a colonel, was the SAC member of that board. Probably, it included representation from maybe the Training Command. I just don't remember. In a formal sense.

    But even then, we were bringing in--whether they were members of the board or not--we would invite in members of the key commands that would be involved like Training, because there was always a major responsibility for identifying training equipment and training manuals, and the training people preparing to train, both for maintenance as well as operation. And the contractor had a member of the board. I remember Art Carlson was the B-52 board member. That CTCI was structured in a way that there were one or two or maybe even three days of briefings and detailed reviews of the hardware, the airplane in its pre-delivered form, and you get typically, the scores were hundreds of discrepancy notices or change requests. They were formal forms that these many, many people who were brought in for this review would write, and they ranged all the way from somebody identifying a place where a wire bundle went over a sharp corner, and obviously was subject to chafing--I still remember a large number of them were in that category.


PHILLIPS: We were describing a Contract Technical Compliance Inspection on the B-52. The changes or change requests that would be written down by the many, many people from the many commands and even other contractors who were brought in to review this article, hardware, ranged all the way from identification of wire chafing--they could include even requests for--call it significant or substantial changes to the airplane. At a mockup review was the formal way in which SAC introduced the requirement for a change from tandem cockpits to side by side. Now, that's a biggie, that's in a mockup review. I can remember one of the more dramatic ones in the B-52, where on a particular day in this Contract Technical Compliance Inspection, the flight test crew, which was headed by Guy Townsend, who is an Air Force colonel, he was assigned on the Plant Rep Staff there at Boeing Seattle to head the Air Force's side of the flight test work on the B-52, and on a particular day he'd taken the crew up for a test flight, which included an armament officer, weapons officer who occupied a position in the cabin on a lower deck with the radars and other equipment used for navigation and bombing. And when they finished their flight, he brought his crew from the flight test hangar, which was on the same property where we were conducting our board meeting, and sat them down there on the platform edge, where the board was sitting at their table above, and everybody else out in the room. And the navigator, weapons officer, sat there and slowly took off his flight boots and said, "Feel my feet." They were like ice, of course. And the crew's request was to put electric heaters in the floor of the airplane at the bomber-navigator station. Of course, that was a very dramatic way to demonstrate the need for a change and brought a little humor into the proceedings, and the board approved putting electric heaters in the floor.

COLLINS: In these meetings the change request would come from other elements of the Air Force who were having an opportunity to review the aircraft.

PHILLIPS: Yes. And even from other contractors, like the engine contractor or the fire control. That gave them one more opportunity to be heard concerning the final configuration of their equipment in this final airplane. I might also mention one other sort of semi-humorous anecdote about the CTCI. The board action would act on every change request that was made, and typically as I say there were a very large number that were submitted. And we put them in categories as a board decision, I've forgotten exactly the categories, but category 1 was approved, do it; category 2 was approved with some conditions; and there was some category, perhaps category 3, which was, let's study it and take an in-depth look and see what makes sense to do. The humorous part was, at some point in one of these proceedings, Don Hellman from SAC said, "What happens to these category 3 requests, the ones that go in to study?" And Art Carlson, the Boeing person, half-jokingly but half-seriously said, "Well, what that means is that if you don't ever bring it up again, we won't either." Although that officially wasn't exactly how they got treated, because we did follow them through.

COLLINS: How did the CTCI reviews relate to the normal process of requesting a change?

PHILLIPS: Well, the changes that were approved by that board and then directed for implementation then came in to the regular system by becoming either CCNs, Contract Change Notices, and/or Engineering Change Proposals, which became official documents in the chain. In other words, the board action was approve this request to put heaters in the floor. To implement that required that Boeing had to develop a formal ECP, which in effect had already been approved, but it had to be formally signed off and that gave an opportunity to review the details and even the interactions, and you know, in the end, if something the board had approved became ridiculous in its implementation, it would get killed in some way. But assuming that it went on through, it then became a formal document, and what I previously described as one of our key management tools which was monitoring the flow of these engineering changes through the system.

COLLINS: Did a request for a change have to go through this board or could it simply be handled through your office? Were there two avenues for doing changes?

PHILLIPS: The answer is yes. But you've got to remember, in the normal conduct of business day to day, the Engineering Change Proposal through my office was the normal flow. The CTCI Contract Technical Compliance Inspection was a one time event, on a particular configuration, and that board action was a one time event, and that, on the occasion of that event, was the quick route to consider and act on a change.

COLLINS: Is there anything else you wanted to add to your responsibilities on the B-52?

PHILLIPS: Well, I guess I'd just add very briefly that we had a periodic management meeting to review progress and problems on the airplane. I don't remember the period in which we conducted those, but probably every three or four months there was a program review kind of meeting conducted at Boeing. And as I mentioned, as program director, program manager, I typically, probably as often as a couple of times a year, would visit the major contractors other than Boeing, Pratt and Whitney, ARMA. I'm trying to remember who had the bombing system on that airplane. Which triggers me to recall another important element of my activity and responsibility had to do with upgrading configurations, model changes.

    As you look back on the B-52, you can be aware that there were models all the way up through H, I guess, was the last one I recall, so there were several models, each in turn a significant upgrade from the previous one. And in my period, while we were preparing to deliver the initial models, which were either C's or D's, to SAC, we were already configuring the next model, and one of the really big changes that we were pushing hard for, from my office in the ARDC, was to upgrade the bombing system, from what essentially was an adaption of the system that had been in the B-47, to a completely new system, whole new radar and whole new computer. I remember it was called the MA-2. I don't know why I remember, but it was the first digital application. And as I say, my responsibility included these significant upgrades to succeeding models. When I became convinced by the Armament Lab people and others that we should introduce the MA-2 bombing system into the B-52, I then put together a full story on that in a briefing form and took it first up through Baltimore, ARDC, to get it all signed off on the ARDC side, and then took it out to Omaha to brief it to General LeMay and the SAC staff. And there's been a lot of pre-work on this, you know. It wasn't all news to them that we were coming out there to do this.

    I never will forget that particular meeting, because after going through the briefing and feeling that I'd done a convincing job of convincing SAC that we ought to put the MA-2 bombing system in whatever number we were working toward, airplane, General LeMay, in ways that only he could act, said, "No." He said, "Young man, you might think you've got a convincing story there, but I've been through years of hell making the bombing system in the B-47 work, and the first of the B-52s work, and I'll be damned if I'm going to let you put in a new one which I'll have to start all over again making it work." Just to finish that little story for a moment, he turned to Don Hellman, whom I mentioned earlier, who was his requirements chief, and said, "Don, I want you to make a list of everybody who's here, write it down, so we'll remember who it was that told us we ought to change the bombing system on the B-52, because I want to--" He said, "The way this system works, you can never find who's responsible for things when there's a mistake." He said, "For once, I want to know."

    Incidentally, that particular incident was one that maybe in either indirect or direct ways, had a lot to do with my own attitude toward my responsibilities as program director, but particularly in the Minuteman program which came later, when remember LeMay said, "I can never figure out who in the AMC-ARDC complex is responsible for these things that don't work, I want to know," so that played a role in my attitude toward the role of a program director later on.

COLLINS: Did your proposal for a new bombing system die there?

PHILLIPS: Yes, in terms of what I recommended, that stopped it, which was you know incorporated effective with airplane so and so as a model change. What came out of it, though, was an agreement, this not in the particular meeting but it followed, to undertake a fairly extensive flight test program in some combination of B-47s and early B-52s to put this equipment in and subject it to quite an extensive program of what today I guess you'd call operational testing. And over some period of time, I don't remember, I don't know how long because it went beyond my time with the B-52, that activity then led to incorporating that system in the B-52 at a later time.

    But you know, I think in retrospect LeMay was right, because during my time in the Armament Laboratory, I was well aware of the terrible problems that SAC was having with particularly the B-47 and its bombing system. See, that bombing system was a very sophisticated set of fairly high powered radars as well as the very early computers of the day, and it was all vacuum tube. This was before transistors. And I don't remember the statistics, but typically a B-47 or a flight of B-47s, they'd be lucky if they had one or two bombing systems that managed to work long enough to get all the way to the target and back, for a formation.

    The action that was undertaken as a result of that--the problem was poor design, in a sense, in that you pack all these vacuum tubes in a confined space, and among other things, don't provide them adequate cooling, so you get too much heat built up, and a whole lot of other things that resulted in establishing a project that we called Project Reliable, to redesign the bombing system. This was undertaken, as I said, on the B-47, and headed by the Armament Laboratory, and organizations like AIR, Inc. had their beginnings in that period, working on reliability problems and component reliability and vacuum tube reliability. So the redesign of that bombing system was fairly extensive, to provide additional cooling.

    Out of that we learned a lot of lessons about how to design, particularly electronic equipment or electro-mechanical equipment for airborne application. Adequate cooling, design de-rating, typically in those years an engineer would work components right up to their limit, their spec limit, and of course the way to design equipment so it will last longer reliably is to operate it way down in its performance envelope and so on--a big digression.

COLLINS: No, that's an important point. Getting back to the business of model changes, while you were in the B-52 project office, were you involved in any model changes and improving the system from model to model? Or were you just given one particular model?

PHILLIPS: My tenure in the B-52 office was of the order of two years, from some time in '54 to the summer of '56. It was a period in which the first airplanes were delivered to SAC, and a period in which a lot of configuration decisions involving tandem to side by side cockpits and so on and learning from testing and flight testing were being incorporated to get an airplane ready to deliver. A period in which some of the not unusual failures or significant problems that come to light in early testing or operation, like for example the first airplane we were going to deliver to SAC for training, we were delivering from Edwards to Castle, as I recall. It was being flown by a young man named Magruder, and when it landed I think at Castle, the landing gear collapsed. The B-52 was a big heavy airplane, you know, it had tandem bicycle landing gear, and after it made a nice smooth touchdown and landing, the landing gear slowly collapsed and the plane wound up on its belly.

    That's a whole other story, but it's the kind of problem you bring to light when you're getting experience with early models of a new system. We were then concentrating heavily on getting the first models stabilized and delivered and working right, spending not a great deal of time then in a broad perspective on model upgrades, the next models, in other words. I can remember probably two categories of things we were working on that had to do with model upgrades. One category was to try to make some logical determination out of the mass of learning we were getting, as to how much of this stuff we ought to collect together to incorporate into a model change. This could be some combination of engineering change proposals that had been coming into the system, which it might or might not make sense to incorporate one at a time in the flow of production, but how many of them to save up for a model change--some of those that had to do with safety of flight or other things, you had to put in right away. And what significant things like an MA-2 bombing system were coming out of development that we should incorporate as an upgrade. So I think during my time, I don't recall leading the effort to come up with the spec sheet, if you will, for the next model. I was working on these elements that would become a new model.

COLLINS: I think we can probably move on to what your subsequent assignment was after the B-52.

PHILLIPS: Well, specifically I was re-assigned to SAC, in the 7th Air Division in England, and I was assigned initially as the director of logistics for SAC 7th Air Division which was based at South Raislip near London in England. The logic of that assignment was that I, as a person who had by then spent some six years at Wright Field and my last assignment had been in charge of the B-52, was then to go into SAC for some operational experience, and the 7th Air Division in England was responsible in SAC for managing the SAC bases, largely in England, used for staging or recovery of SAC units in their war plan. And we had half a dozen or so bases in England, large bases like Upper Haford and as I said, the logic was that I, as the most recent B-52 program manager, could bring that know-how into SAC, who would soon be using B-52s to include training in Europe and have its effect there in the 7th Air Division. That transfer, I guess just by way of a little bit of additional background, was actually arranged by Hol (Howell) Estis who was by then either a major general or lieutenant general. I'm trying to reconstruct this because it has some importance in some respects anyway.

    Estis had been in SAC during most of his career, so he was thought of and regarded as a SAC officer. In the early formation of ARDC, remember I mentioned that I was a part of Writer Development Center, with Al Boyd, Major General Al Boyd as commander, Hol Estis had been appointed to a position that was somehow intermediate between Al Boyd and Tom Power, who was commander of the Air Research and Development Command. If I think about it a while I'll remember more detail, but anyhow think of it for the moment as at that point.

    I had always believed from my own experience and standpoint that it was important for an Air Force officer to be a broad-gauge person, with diverse experience, and had thought it was important that I continue to have a mix of operational as well as development experience. And having spent some six years at Wright Field, I thought it was time for me to get somehands-on operating experience again. So I discussed this with Hol Estis, and he thought very much the same way, and he managed to work then a trade. Remember, he'd come from SAC, so he worked an arrangement which LeMay approved, in which an officer, a colonel in SAC, Bishop as I recall his name, would come from SAC into Writer Development Center to head the next generation bomber program, which was then called Project 1-10, which over a tortuous route ultimately became the B-1. Tortuous route including the B-70. So Bishop would come in to ARDC to head the l-10 program, and I would go to SAC into the assignment they picked, which was in England. That's a long answer to, what was my next assignment.

COLLINS: What was the significance for you to get this operational experience at this time?

PHILLIPS: The difference between becoming a narrow, I think of it as narrowly-channeled R and D officer, versus a broad gauge Air Force officer. I always thought it was more important, the way I saw the world, to maintain a broader perspective, than to become a narrowly-focussed specialist.

COLLINS: So in your role as director of logistics what was the range of your responsibilities?

PHILLIPS: Well, the initial range of responsibilities in that position had to do with the logistical support of the SAC mission there in England and in Europe. The typical logistics organization, in a SAC unit, has some pros in logistics planning who are able to plan the materiel requirements, to support the conduct of a particular mission or operation. An ongoing piece or element of the 7th Air Division mission was the accommodation of B-47 wings that would come on to one or more of our bases there in England, spend a month or some period of time conducting operations and training, and then return to their base in the States, and so the logistics planning for the materiel aspects of supporting that flow of wings in and out was one element of my job responsibility. That seems and is a relatively routine and mundane kind of operation.

    Another element of the responsibility was planning the logistics planning support for that element of the SAC war plan which did involve a somewhat more sophisticated involvement in planning for materiel stockpiling and materiel flow in the event of various contingencies. So that was in the planning of the so-called war plan of that element of SAC and in turn the SAC war planning, logistics support thereof.

    Another element was supporting another piece of the 7th Air Division responsibility which had to do with certain ongoing reconnaissance activities in various parts of the world, which included the logistics support and working with the operations planners in supporting these rather diverse and fairly extensive operations. And at a fairly early time, a point in that period--this being from 1956 to '59 three years--the question ofintroducing the Thor ballistic missile into England came up at the President, Prime Minister level. This was in Eisenhower's administration. And there was some international conference at which a Presidential level agreement was reached that Thors would be deployed into England. This was while they were still in fairly early development here in the US.

    My organization then became responsible for representing, being the official representative of the Air Force in working with the Royal Air Force, who had been delegated the job of working the details of the implementing agreements. So the 7th Air Division, whose commander by then was a Major General Blanchard, and the Royal Air Force Bomber Command, as I recall, were kind of the counterparts at the general level. Then my organization, Chief of Logistics, Director of Logistics for 7th Air Division under Blanchard, really had the direct interfacing responsibility. So we were the official interface then with England in working out the implementing agreements.

    Now, work on the Thor was all being done over here in Inglewood by Schriever's organization then, Western Development Organization, and the project officer under Schriever for the Thor was Jacobsen, a colonel or lieutenant colonel. So they appointed a colonel to come over and live with us, I've forgotten his name, Van something, and he brought a few people over and set up a full time office, and Jacobsen and others were spending a lot of time traveling back and forth. Douglas was their prime contractor, main contractor. So we were the official interface, and responsible then for orchestrating the US effort, if you will, the work with the RAF. It involved a lot of activities, picking the bases, the site or sites at which the Thors would be deployed, and some decisions that had economic political overtones having to do with what was going to be built and produced in England, versus delivered from the US. And so on.

COLLINS: In terms of support equipment?

PHILLIPS: Yes, support equipment. A lot that fell in that category had to do with items that typically are furnished by construction contractors, things like electrical generators, air conditioning equipment, electrical distribution equipment and all that stuff. The weapons system equipment, in the way of the missile, the erector and direct checkout equipment, that isn't in contention, but there's a lot of stuff that is. So there was a pretty massive effort, if you will, to get the implementing agreements worked out, which started with, at least on mine and most of the people in England's behalf, zero knowledge. That included of course the RAF. To taking a sophisticated new development known to a group over here of Air Force and contractor people, and managing the process of getting that worked out into an implementing agreement.

COLLINS: There's one element of the logistics, I was wondering how the warhead was handled.

PHILLIPS: I'm trying to remember the details. It was an obviously complicated arrangement, because under US law the control of nuclear warheads had to remain in US hands, and of course under UK law, there had to be certain prerogatives and other things taken care of. My memory, which could be not absolutely right in every detail, is that we established the munitions storage and munitions processing area which would take care of all the warheads as a total US responsibility, and my memory is that the first base where we put in Thors was at Mildenhall. This could be subject to being checked, but whatever the first base was, which ultimately would become a principally RAF operating base operating the Thors, would always have to be a joint British-US operation because of the nuclear warheads. So my memory is that the warhead storage and processing, facilities required for all that, and for that matter the people and the organization to do it, were all US and were designed and established in that way. There was some change made to the missile and launcher system to provide for both US and UK authority to launch. I don't remember the implementation of it, but it probably had to do with launch enablers, something in which both through the US chain of command authority to release could be granted, and through the UK chain of command authority to release or launch could be granted. So there was some technical change required to make that physically doable. At some stage in the turnover of Thors to the UK, they were put on short term alert, which meant having re-entry vehicles with warheads on the missile and in a position of full alert, with as I say some mechanization of ways to enable the launch of a missile and warhead through both countries' chains of command.

COLLINS: This was the result of some readiness situation, or as a matter of normal practice?

PHILLIPS: Well, here again, it's only a matter of my memory, but thinking back on it, the logic would have been that at a certain state of tension or state of alert, that re-entry vehicles and warheads would be installed, and that in a period of lack of tension up to then, the re-entry vehicle warheads would be in storage. But at some state in the progression, they would be put on the missiles, and thereby in whatever state of readiness that system had.


COLLINS: I forget the kind of propulsion system that Thor had. It was a liquid system?

PHILLIPS: Yes, it was a liquid engine, Rocketdyne engine, I think essentially the same engine as was used multiply on the Atlas.

COLLINS: So you also had to deal with questions of storage and maintenance of highly flammable rocket fuel.

PHILLIPS: Yes, that was one of the big elements in the planning and the agreements with the people in England, was the construction of the facilities for handling and storing and then transferring. See, the Thor used RP-1, kerosene, and liquid oxygen, so they had to establish facilities for--it's not too unlike jet fuel, which was easy to store. But liquid oxygen in large quantities is another matter, requiring cryogenic facilities--so yes, that was a significant part of the preparation.

COLLINS: It sounds like perhaps in this position you were brought a little bit closer to the politics, if you will, of some of these activities, and the concerns that go along with introducing these advanced systems into more social settings.

PHILLIPS: Yes. Very much so. Yes, in many respects. I mentioned one of the economic-political aspects, about which country provided what in the way of equipment and/or the work that would produce a lot of things. Another element that really got introduced in that process was survivability. You've got to remember that this was my first involvement with a ballistic missile activity, and it was involvement with me in England working with a group of people from Inglewood, California, who were developing the Thor, and my counterparts and people in the RAF were very concerned about the survivability of the Thor in military situations.

    Here they are, this was not very long after World War II in a relative sense, and the RAF was quite rightly concerned, being located geographically where they are, about the vulnerability of these trailer-mounted Thors sitting on level pads there in England. Vulnerability to attack from a variety of modes. And at least from my perspective, this was the first occasion when survivability became a big issue, and the RAF was clearly not pleased with what was proposed to be delivered. See, the Thor was defined as to be trailer-mounted, erector transported, to be located essentially on a level pad, with storage tanks nearby for storing the liquid oxygen, and rocket fuel. So some things were done to try to provide some limited measures of survivability, in the way of revetting, building revetments in other words around the transporter, erector, and providing revetting and limited protection for the fuel systems and so on. But I think more importantly, those discussions reflected themselves back in Inglewood, and I'm sure in Omaha as well, that resulted in some fairly early implementation of survivability features in the Atlas, Titan and Minuteman systems as they evolved. I remember some of the early configurations of US systems here in the US. That's another political kind of involvement.

COLLINS: Now, from my cursory understanding of some of SAC history, this period when you were in England was a period when they were evaluating their overseas basing plans, and this question of vulnerability and survivability was fairly important. Did you get involved in that aspect of it, from the aircraft point of view?

PHILLIPS: Yes. Yes. I'm trying to think, during that period, this being '56 to '59, of any really substantial things that were decided or done on the aircraft side. And I can't think of any, although, you're right, it was a period when more and more thought was being given to the subject and the problem.

COLLINS: Some of the impetus for these concerns came out of some studies by the RAND Corporation. Were you aware of that, or did you have any contact with RAND people during this period?

PHILLIPS: Not during the time I was in SAC, that I remember. But I do remember that as I, a little later, was put in charge of the Minuteman program, I remember getting some RAND reports on survivability. I'm not surprised that it was RAND that was doing studies on this at that period, but I wasn't involved with it.

COLLINS: I think we can probably move on to your involvement with Minuteman, unless you want to add anything else about your experience in England.

PHILLIPS: Well, just a couple of things that I guess I think are significant. One is that pursuant to my own belief in the importance, to me anyway, of maintaining some diversity in my career and some operational involvement and know-how, I succeeded while there in the 7th Air Division in getting a full check-out and crew proficiency sign-off in the B-47 as a pilot. And that involved a trans-Atlantic flight, both directions, to include air refueling up over Newfoundland and Greenland, which to me was quite a satisfying experience. But it was part of my own belief in the importance of maintaining a broader perspective of Air Force than becoming narrowly focussed as an "engineering or R and D" officer.

    That, incidentally, is a significant problem in the Air Force. It has been for many years and probably will continue to be. It's one that the Air Force works fairly hard to try to manage, the question of rated, non-rated, pilot, non-pilot, career specialist in R and D, which is very important to maintain, to develop know-how as a specialist and have sufficient tenure and continuity to be effective. It's a real problem to manage that, and I think I've given you some of my own attitude toward it, because I think it is important. The other thing I want to mention is that I was becoming very enthusiastic about pursuing a career in SAC, about midway through my 7th Air Division tour, and was looking forward to becoming a SAC wing commander in some due time, after being re-assigned from England, because at least in one perspective, the best job in SAC is to be a wing commander, but that is also, of course, the route to command. My involvement there in 7th Air Division in that Thor deployment to England and implementation was when I came to the attention of people here in Schriever's organization. So their observation of me in that role, together with my prior Wright Field experience, was how I got identified to be transferred from 7th Air Division to what by then was the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division, AFBMD, still commanded by Schriever, here in Inglewood, and I had the orders before I left England, to be the Minuteman program director.

COLLINS: I'm unclear on what the relationship was between Schriever's ballistic missile group and SAC. Were they independent organizations?

PHILLIPS: Yes. You're talking about in the England case or more broadly?

COLLINS: More broadly.

PHILLIPS: They were independent organizations, and Strategic Air Command, SAC, was then and still is a separate command in the Air Force and in turn then the Unified Command Structure. Specified Command Structure. In the late fifties, and into the early sixties, Ballistic Missile Division was an element of the Air Research and Development Command which was a major command of the Air Force on a level with SAC as an Air Force command, so they were separate commands. Now, remember that the ballistic missile decisions were made in '54, and to implement those, they established, to be somewhat covert about it, an organization called WDD, the Western Development Division, and picked young Brigadier General Schriever to head it. They sent it out here to Inglewood to get itself set up, and the initial efforts involved or wanted to have a fair amount of secrecy about it, if you will, like I suppose maybe the right word is covertness, at least to not be dramatically visible, to make every effort to be invisible. So they didn't wear uniforms and so on. I think that was to try to obscure to some extent the undertaking of a major effort in intercontinental ballistic missiles.

    In this early period, and this early would persist into the late fifties certainly, probably at least up to '58, Schriever could tell you exactly, but it was for a period of three plus or minus years, the impetus for major pursuit of intercontinental ballistic missile development came from the top. This was the top being Washington, broadly. And in that sense then, Strategic Air Command was not really very interested in it.

COLLINS: So they were not providing input as to requirements, how this would fit into a war plan.


COLLINS: Even to that degree.

PHILLIPS: Exactly. So if you think of it now as 1954, '55, '56, maybe into '57 or '58, SAC was not only not involved, but through some fairly long period of time, Curt LeMay was actively opposed. You remember, I wasn't involved in this directly. I was doing the things we've been talking about. For obvious reasons--well, obvious in a sense--whatever money would be going into ballistic missiles would be coming off of other SAC programs, new bombers and so on. So for a long period of time, SAC was activelyopposed to the missiles. Some point early in that time, the Western Development Division, later became the Ballistic Missile Division, under Schriever was assigned an additional responsibility, over and above the normal development production responsibility. That was to be responsible for establishing the initial operational capability. So there was a period of history in which Schriever's organization officially and formally had the responsibility for the early operational phase of ballistic missiles, IOC, it was called, Initial Operational Capability.

COLLINS: Was that applied to the case of Thor in England?

PHILLIPS: No. No, that's a separate case because of the international connotations and so on. But think about the Atlas to be the first US ICBM. The person to tell you about this really is Ben Schriever, who had it, but my understanding of it --and this did play a part in a lot of the early actions involving Vandenberg, for example. Vandenberg was originally Camp Cook, an old Army camp that was picked as a logical place on the West Coast to set up the IOC, Initial Operational Capability, and my understanding is that this IOC responsibility of Schriever's was a factor behind the choice of then Camp Cook to become Vandenberg. So I'm a little hazy on this, but probably the early connotation of Vandenberg was more IOC than it was developmental testing.

COLLINS: I guess I'm not quite clear on the distinction between developmental testing and initial operating capability.

PHILLIPS: Well, an initial operating capability means a war fighting capability, means the early phase of ability to employ them in war. So the IOC in its strict sense is the Initial Operational System to be put into the nation's war plans to be used for its intended wartime role.

COLLINS: Wasn't Thor really the first operational system?

PHILLIPS: Yes, but you've got me a little bit of a memory disadvantage here, now that you're asking questions in this way. Let me explain.

COLLINS: Let me interject something. Maybe this is something that it would be better for us to sort out and discuss at a future point, where we get a better chronological framework and a set of things down in front of us so we can make proper references, because I think we're both probably groping a little bit here.

PHILLIPS: Yes, sure, I agree we can pursue this more later. See, the subtle difference that I'm a little hazy on, now that you've brought it up in this way--was the Thor being given to England to employ as one of England's war fighting systems, or was the Thor being deployed as a US war fighting system on English territory with English permission? Now, my recollection of this is that the Thor was being given to England to employ as a British war fighting system. And it was not a US system being deployed on UK soil.

COLLINS: But in the Thor case, was SAC responsible in terms of working with the British for the operational aspects?


COLLINS: And the group that you mentioned from Inglewood was essentially simply providing support to SAC to fulfill this ?


COLLINS: Because SAC didn't have any history of experience in working with missiles.

PHILLIPS: True. That's true. Let me add that organizationally, in that early period, there was established here in Inglewood an organization that was known as SAC-MIC. It turned out, when I arrived here on the scene, it was headed by a colonel who had been one of my counterparts in the operations organization of the 7th Air Division in SAC, so he had been assigned out here to be the head of what was called SAC-MIC.

COLLINS: The MIC part of that acronym stands for what?

PHILLIPS: Probably stood for M, Missile. And that organization, in my recollection, reported directly to Commander-in-Chief SAC LeMay. Their job out here was to play a liaison role in the development and ultimate operation of ballistic missiles. Now, at some point, and it's important to establish just when this occurred, that IOC responsibility for ARDC, Schriever, was canceled, and the responsibility was given to SAC, because at some point, SAC saw the handwriting on the wall or whatever and officially joined the team and they were officially assigned then the ICBM operational employment job, which obviously, I say obviously, they were the ones to do it, although as I think about it, not having been involved, it would have been conceivable to have established a new ICBM command whose job it was to employ ballistic missiles. Well, it turned out I think the way the Air Force did it was a better way, but remind me of a major point we're working on here--

COLLINS: We were trying to sort out when SAC began to assume operational responsibility for the ballistic missiles, ICBMs.

PHILLIPS: Well, it clearly was before 1959 when I arrived at Inglewood, and by 1957, some time probably in 1957 when I was involved in England, SAC had a major role in preparing and certainly in negotiating with England, so somewhere in the '54 to '57 period is when some transitions occurred with I would say responsibility initially in the ARDC and then being re-assigned to SAC.

COLLINS: So in essence, the procurement and deployment of missiles eventually came to fit the same pattern as the procurement and deployment of aircraft.

PHILLIPS: Yes. Over quite a period of time.

COLLINS: Right. Now, in terms of your career evolution, while there in England you were more intimately exposed to the operations of SAC, and to the operations of the ballistic missiles division, and you mentioned earlier your interest in working towards a position as wing commander, and not going into the ballistic missile division. Was this because of what you mentioned earlier, a broadening of your career responsibilities? Or diversity of career responsibilities? Given what you wanted to do and what you ended up doing, how did that come about?

PHILLIPS: It turned out that my being assigned to ARDC as the director of the Minuteman program was a very good move, in terms of I guess the Air Force employing my experience and my own career development opportunities. My own attitude in that period was that having finished three years of SAC duty and being in a position where in some reasonable short period I expected to become a wing commander, that another tour or so in SAC would be a very good career move, rather than after only a limited three years back in the operational business, going back in the research and development business. My own attitude was that my long term career interests, ambitions, and what I enjoyed doing in that period would be better served by another tour in SAC. So I think the way it turned out was actually better.

COLLINS: In a situation like that, did you have an opportunity to provide input about what you would like to do?


COLLINS: Somebody upstairs says "Sam's the best man for the Minuteman program, that's where we're going to put him."


COLLINS: I think rather than begin to delve into the details of the Minuteman program, maybe it would be best to conclude for the day. We've been going for quite a while. Thank you very much.

Phillips 2 || Phillips 4

Rev. 09/06/96

© 1996 National Air and Space Musuem